A lot has changed over the past 15 years.
Before USF President Judy Genshaft, the campus was covered with sandy lots and lacked much of the vibrant landscaping that, today, lies between buildings that look upon a completely different campus.
In Genshaft’s 15-year tenure, longer than any previous USF president, the campus has expanded in more ways than one.
With regard to multimillion-dollar projects, Genshaft has overseen the completion of Juniper-Poplar Hall, the Interdisciplinary Sciences building, the rebuilt Marshall Student Center (MSC), the Patel Center on USF Alumni Drive that now houses her office and the expanded complex for USF Athletics.
However, Genshaft will not focus on older accomplishments in today’s annual address in the MSC Oval Theater. Rather, her speech will focus on the projects started in the last few years and their near conclusions.
In the next several years, the campus will see the completion of the USF Health Heart Institute and Morsani College of Medicine constructed downtown and the public-private partnership that will produce the new Andros Village, complete with shopping and recreation areas.
To fund such goals, the university may also soon see the final stages of the $1 billion Unstoppable campaign, an ambitious record-setting goal that has currently raised more than $880 million.
For Genshaft, the campus can always grow, and more projects can always be completed.
“It never stops. There’s always more,” Genshaft said in an interview with The Oracle.
But how much longer will Genshaft be in the leadership position? If the Board of Trustees (BOT) does not re-appoint her, her contract will expire in June of 2016, and another president may be the one witnessing the fruits of her labor.
In the 15 years of her tenure, USF’s main campus has increased by more than 10,000 students, with almost 42,000 on the Tampa campus this year. The average freshman on campus this year scored 132 more points on the SAT than their 2001 counterparts, and the average high school GPA rose from 3.49 to 4.08, according to data from the provost’s office.
Provost Ralph Wilcox said these strides — in addition to the 24 percent increase in four-year graduation rates and the 21 percent increase in six-year rates — would not have been possible if not for the university’s stable leadership.
“As our rankings increase as a top-tier research university, it means the value of your degree, of those students who have graduated before you, continues to rise,” Wilcox said. “…This is a president that doesn’t allow any of us to stray from that course we are on. (She) maintains course and discipline through a strategic plan that hasn’t wavered.
“The difficulty with new presidents coming in is that oftentimes new presidents want to take the university on a different course. We, USF, across the USF system across the Tampa Bay community, are so fortunate to have a president who has kept on course and focused and disciplined on all that we do.”
Even though USF faced the economic hardships of 2008, — when school budgets were being cut across the state and the following years resulted in a split with the Lakeland campus that became Florida Polytechnic — Genshaft said she had to remain focused and positive despite the times.
“Steer the ship in the right direction to make sure that you are not just ducking down and not achieving anything,” Genshaft said. “You wanted to still achieve and move forward.”
In addition to the medical school downtown, a piece of Lightning owner Jeff Vinik’s new billion-dollar revitalization of downtown Tampa, the president also will soon oversee the construction of a $133 million housing project expected in June 2019 over two phases.
The new village, which would replace the existing Andros dorms built in the ’60s, would feature semi-suite and traditional style beds, a health and wellness facility, a pool and dining facilities.
“It’s all the president’s vision of students being engaged more than just Monday through Thursday,” USF Chief Operating Officer John Long said. “It’s how do we keep the population involved Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and part of that is this village concept that we provide all kinds of outlets for students …
“The buildings are old — they’ve served their purpose. I graduated in 1982. People learn differently in 2015 than they did in 1982, so we need to build a space that focuses on modern learning concepts and not concepts from the ’60s.”
Its her collaborative style of leadership that Genshaft said gives her her never-give-up attitude.
“There are always obstacles,” she said. “I often say that a life of a president and, actually, many of our senior vice presidents, is a roller coaster. When it is high, it is great and fabulous, and when it is down, it gets really low at times.”
In the recovering economy, some critics considered Genshaft ambitious when she announced the $500 million Unstoppable campaign was going to expand to a $1 billion goal. Nevertheless, the donations in the past year hit record numbers.
In October, Pam and Les Muma donated $25 million to rename the College of Business. In February, Lynn Pippenger gave $10 million for the School of Accountancy. Before those donations, Kate Tiedemann’s $10 million gift renamed USF St. Petersburg’s College of Business in September.
More recent Unstoppable announcements include a $10 million donation from USF trustee Jordan Zimmerman and last month’s $10.85 million donation from USF alumnus Barron Collier and wife Dana.
“Do we always choose the right opportunity? We hope so, but if it doesn’t pan out, we regroup and go to something that will make sense for the university,” Genshaft said. “It’s one where you just have to work the system whether its legislative, internally, the system in the city or the state you just have to work all the different levels that you’re at.”
Though it will be up to a vote among the BOT, Genshaft has a long track record at USF and said she “absolutely” plans to continue on and renew her contract.
“This is a great university and it’s a great university to be at,” she said. “… We have a lot more to do and we’re all signed on to continue to do it … I can tell you we’re moving forward.”
The president’s fall address begins today at 2 p.m., which can also be viewed live at
usf.edu. To see clips of Genshaft’s interview with The Oracle, visit USFOracle.com.